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Resolutions to really better your English 3 January 4, 2008

Posted by Chris in course, English, methodology.
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3. Train your ear

One of the most frustrating things about language learning is that when you have practiced and practiced your dialogues and get to test them on a real live native, you don’t understand a bloody word they say to you. In the past this was one of the hardest areas to resolve because if you didn’t live in a country where your chosen language was spoken it was almost impossible to have any contact with it. Consequently a student could come to understand their teacher but nobody else.

Fortunately digital content and delivery has removed this problem with a plethora of podcasts, dvd’s, online videos etc. But you still have to train your ear. A typical person studying English decides to watch, say, Billy Elliot. After 5 minutes they are completely lost and frustrated and have decided they will never learn the language. It is incredibly difficult to begin to understand a film in a different tongue – invariably there will be accents you’ve never heard, slang you’ve never learned, twists & turns and lots of wordplay and cultural references that mean nothing to you. (By the way, Billy Elliot was subtitled in the USA because the Americans couldn’t understand it).

I always recommend my students to begin by listening to something everyday, and not necessarily concentrating on it either. What is important is to accustom the ear to different sounds and accents. Think about how you pick up a song – by repetition, hearing it over and over again in your car or on the radio. Before you know it you are humming the tune or singing along – but unless you are a musician it is unlikely that you sit down and actually learn it. Podcasts and other digital content give you the ability to do exactly the same thing. Just start by listening while doing the dishes or walking the dog or whatever. Your journey to & from work can be a perfect time to work on your listening skills. If you persevere you’ll begin to pick out words, then phrases and little by little to start really understanding.

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Resolutions to really better your English 2 January 2, 2008

Posted by Chris in course, English, methodology.
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2. Consistency

A year in the study of English of a typical Spanish student:

• January – resolve to really learn English this year – enrollment in English course
• Champions League games inconveniently take place on weekday nights making it difficult to study
• League games/weddings/ski-ing trips etc inconveniently take place on weekends making it difficult to study
• Easter holidays
• Longer days and warmer weather inconveniently mean that having a drink on a terraza makes it difficult to study
• Hot weather means visits to the beach and English books get wet and full of sand
• 23rd June – San Juan fiesta means that studying is over until after the summer holidays
• August – holidays in foreign country produce panic as student realises they can’t communicate
• September – enrollment in English course
• October – English course begins as does the football season
• 6th December – National holiday, begins holiday season which ends on January 7th – English course finishes until next year

Of course this is a slight exaggeration but it is one of the reasons why people studying English for 20 years is not that uncommon.

The only way to learn a language is to be consistent – it is far better to study only five minutes a day if that’s the only time you have, than to stop and start. Work out how much time you can dedicate to the goal that you have set yourself and stick to it by making a realistic plan. With the rise of internet based learning, mp3, dvd etc you should always be able to find some time and remember that learning a language is not a race, it’s an ongoing project that never stops.

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New Years Resolutions to really better your English in 2008 January 1, 2008

Posted by Chris in course, English.
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Happy New Year

Here in Spain today is the day when people wake up to their New Years Resolutions. Behind them are the 12 grapes at midnight, the cava and the lucky red underwear and today the list is staring at them, invariably repeating the good intentions of last year:

  • stop smoking
  • go to the gym/lose weight/eat better
  • learn English

I suspect that many of our readers have made a similar intention to really learn/improve English in 2008, so this week I’m going to be giving some tips on how to do that.


Decide why you want to speak better English. You need an objective to get you through those times when motivation is low. Many people want to be able to communicate better for work reasons. Others want to be able to speak, listen & understand when they travel . The important thing is to set the goal and think about the best way to achieve it.

Tomorrow we’ll look at another important resolution for your English learning in 2008.

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Online English December 16, 2007

Posted by Chris in BYEOnline, countdown, course, materials, methodology, news.
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Ok – So why is your course different?

Our course is different because it’s based on two things – each individual student and the great tools that internet provides.

Can you explain a little more – there are plenty of “online courses”?

Yes there are – and they all have one thing in common. They are imitation courses i.e. you follow modules or units or whatever, essentially doing the same as if you were working in a textbook with the same old tired exercises. What we have done is to design an online course and use the internet to it’s full potential.

Before the internet, language learning could be broken down into either face 2 face learning, correspondence courses or self-taught. Each of these has major drawbacks.

Face 2 face learning, although obviously the best option, has a major problem and that is the organisation of time. If you miss one or two classes you are essentially going to be playing catch up for the rest of the course.
And you WILL miss classes – it’s more or less impossible to do class every Wednesday night at 19:30 for a million reasons and it’s difficult for a language school to timetable make-up classes for all of their students. The same goes for in-company classes. Also if you only do one class a week and have no further contact with the language and there are other people in the class (which means your practice time is drastically reduced) and who are not at exactly the same level, you can be expecting to study for 100 years or so.
The classic correspondence course had the same drawbacks regarding contact with the language plus the additional problem of literally no pronunciation correction.
Self-taught courses have the above problems, and while they resolve the time problem – they have an even bigger one – motivation. It’s hard enough to go to class on a cold Wednesday night but to put in hours week after week on your own with no encouragement is incredibly difficult.

These are the challenges provided by “traditional” language courses – what are the BYE Online solutions?

Our course is Face 2 Face (via internet) so you have all the advantages of “going” to a class with a real teacher and as you are the only student, the timetable is organised for you and ONLY you. The everyday contact with the language will be provided by us based on YOUR INTERESTS using the wealth of podcasts, videos, news services and information available on the internet. You probably don’t have the time to sort through all the great resources out there – but we know where they are and will tailor them to you. In this way, you will have real contact with authentic (and up to date) language which reflects your needs and interests – not some boring, generalised textbook stuff, but the real, living language.

But I can do all this myself – why do I need you guys?

While it’s true that if you really are incredibly self-motivated and have plenty of time you could follow an online course and find resources, what we give you is our experience, analysis, feedback and constant REAL TIME support.

When you start the BYE Online course, the first thing that takes place is our analysis of your English skills. This will take the form of conversation (via Skype) for your speaking and listening abilities, and writing for grammar and use of English. We will identify your problem areas and prepare your course based on these issues, your language needs, your timetable and your interests. But this analysis is not just a one off. It’s an ongoing and intrinsic part of our programme and we aim – in an intensive 3 months – to identify and resolve your problems.
We will be motivating you through conversations, reports and your own personal podcasts. You will be using both British and American English and having conversations with teachers from both countries to ensure that you have no problems with either comprehension or expressions. Contact with other accents will be provided via podcasts and videos.

We are going to be supporting you 100% because we know from experience that if you are successful in your language learning with us you will become our best advertisers.

Your course is expensive

Expensive is relative – how much is it worth to you NOT to go & study in an English speaking country for 3 months? How much is it worth to you to GET that job because your English is better than that of the other applicants?
There is a saying in English “you get what you pay for” and what you are getting is all our experience, skills, motivation and understanding of your needs in a course that is tailor made for you. The majority of online courses are cheap because you are just interacting with your computer, doing exercises that you could do in a book. These courses are designed to happen remotely and are cheap because the objective is “bums on seats” – 100’s or 1000’s of people paying a cheap price. How good can these courses be?
The BYE Online course is designed for you, only 10 of you at a time. That way we can work with you individually and in real time. The internet has given us the ability to remove geographic and time constraints – that’s what we mean when we say an online course.

So say hello to BYE Online, where you ARE the course.

What’s the secret? December 9, 2007

Posted by Chris in BYEOnline, countdown, course, English, levels, methodology.
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There isn’t one.
Better Your English Online is all about you and your needs.

Most English courses talk about this but are based on levels and averages. They say that if you can do or say this then you are at that level. Of course real world communication is not measured this way. You can either make yourself understood, and understand, or not. 

You need us if you no longer learn anything in your typical class or course; if the teacher corrects you and you repeat the correction in class but continue to make the same mistake in the real world; if it seems that the only way to finally improve your English once and for all is by taking the expensive and time consuming option of living in an English speaking country for X amount of months.

More classes are NOT the answer. This is a very good money creation idea propagated by the teaching industry. How will you benefit from leaving your family, friends and work behind for three months? What will you learn? The answer to the second question is easy – usually nothing or next to nothing. You will continue to speak the same only with more fluency. That’s right – the same old mistakes but delivered faster. Why? Because the course you attend is not about YOU as an individual but you as a student, a number, another bum on a seat. 

So if there is a secret to this project then you’re it. Your needs and your problems and your experience and your lifestyle. Because what we do is analyse your English and give you solutions based on your real needs and lifestyle and not those of a fictitious “Student X”. Therefore we only work with 10 students per course – 10 individuals with names and jobs and desires and needs. And we work with you – thinking, searching, providing solutions.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us through the contact page, bookmark this page or subscribe the RSS feed. 

(Image by UVic Humanities Computing and Media Centre and Half-Baked Software)  

Another online English course ? December 1, 2007

Posted by Chris in BYEOnline, countdown, course, materials, methodology.
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Another online English course?

Yes – but what we understand by online is using the full potential of the internet and free applications such as Skype , Google docs & Flash Meeting along with tailor made podcasts (MP3 audio and image enhanced), video (YouTube and others) and materials taken from real life. What we do NOT mean by online is completing gap fill exercises using a mouse instead of a pencil.

The countdown has started December 1, 2007

Posted by Chris in BYEOnline, countdown, going live, news.
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Welcome to Better Your English Online. We’ll be going live on January 1st, 2008. In the next few days we’ll be explaining all about the new project and why 2008 can be the year when you really do better your English. Bookmark this page or subscribe to the RSS feed as all will be revealed soon.